I talk to a lot of people who tell me that they are too intimidated to take a yoga class. They come up with all sorts of reasons why they don't want to try it. This is completely understandable, as the stereotypical picture most people have of yoga is a bunch of skinny contortionists in a room doing some crazy "legs around the head" poses.
This, however, is a misconception. The average yogi, that I have met, is not at this stage in their practice. They are more at the place where their fingers don't quite reach their toes - and that is perfectly fine. The goal of yoga is not to get into every pose perfectly or even to get into every pose at all.
My favorite thing about yoga is that anyone can do it and benefit from it. It is a different experience for everyone and there are so many reasons people try and stick with yoga. Therefore, the goal and the experience is unique to everyone, and it can be whatever you make of it.
Some people are interested in finding a way to get grounded after a hectic day, some wish to build strength in their body, for some the benefit is to relieve back pain, for some people the benefit is spiritual, for many people the benefit is all the above and more.
I would like to identify some common yoga myths:
1. You have to be flexible to do yoga
2. You have to be injury-free to do yoga
3. Yoga is for people who meditate
4. You have to be fit to do yoga
The list could go on forever. All of these are FALSE.
TRUTH: Whoever you are and whatever the condition of your mind, body and spirit - you can practice yoga and benefit from it.
Here are some pointers if you have never stepped foot in a yoga studio:
1. Look for classes that are labeled "Beginner" or "All levels"
2. Figure out what you need from yoga. Ask the people at the desk which class would be best for you. For example, a Vinyasa or Power Yoga class is more rigorous and more of a "workout", but if you are looking to cure an injury, or relax, you would need a Restorative Class. Don't be afraid to ask about the classes they offer. Don't be intimidated by the names you don't know. JUST ASK! The truth is most people don't have a clue what the Sanskrit words mean.
3. Introduce yourself to your teacher! Be sure to tell your teacher that you are new. Also make sure to tell them if you are injured or have past injuries.
4. During the class, look around and follow what other students are doing, especially if the teacher does not demonstrate every pose. However, keep in mind that you may be looking at more advanced students, so do not compare yourself to them.
5. Practice yoga on an empty stomach. Do NOT go after lunch. If you go to class in the morning have something small before like a banana and then eat breakfast afterward.
6. Yoga is practiced barefoot. I just like to warm people that because I have seen one too many puzzled faces when I tell people to remove their shoes when they walk in the studio.
7. If you do not own a yoga mat, find out beforehand if you can rent one. Most studios have them available to buy or rent.
TRUTH: you might not instantly fall in love with the practice. Actually, you might hate it at first. Like anything else, it takes getting used to. What you need to remember is it will get better. Have faith in the process. Don't write off yoga after one class. One of the key lessons learned in yoga is patience. Have patience with yoga, have patience with your body, and you will eventually have more patience in your life.